LOS ANGELES -- Once considered a sure bet for U.S. production, the Toyota Prius is now on indefinite hold for assembly here, said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota's North American region.
Toyota currently builds enough Priuses in Asia to satisfy global demand, Lentz said in an interview.
"If you look at global supply and demand for Prius, and the forecast for future demand, they are in equilibrium," he said. "It wouldn't make sense for Prius to be made here because there is not enough incremental demand."
Last year Toyota sold 236,659 units of the Prius family in the United States.
In late 2008, Toyota postponed its original plan to build the Prius at its plant in Blue Springs, Miss., which was then under construction. When General Motors' bankruptcy forced the closure of Toyota's NUMMI joint-venture plant with GM in Fremont, Calif., Toyota chose to build Corollas in Mississippi.
When the U.S. economy bounced back, and with Prius sales climbing, there was talk that Toyota might build a North American plant for the car. But Lentz said no plans are in the works.
The Prius is the only high-volume model Toyota sells in the United States that is not built in North America. Toyota currently produces about 70 percent of the vehicles it sells in the United States in North America. For Honda, the figure is above 90 percent.
"Nothing else in our lineup has significant volume to bring production to North America," Lentz said. "I don't think we'll ever be 90 percent production here. It wouldn't make good business sense."
In addition to the Prius plant in Tsutsumi, Japan, Toyota also builds the Prius for China in Changchun City. It also uses a plant in Chachoengsao, Thailand, for some overflow production.